26 January 2015

Leslie Hill

More outstanding research from Bill:
The search for a next of kin for VX93679 Private Leslie James Hill started when I received his 1939-1945 War and Australian Service Medal and the following comment from the donor, Nikki:
“We have tried to find him, but all we know is that there is no one called Hill in our family, extended or not”.
In reply to my enquiry as to their background, all that Nikki could say was that they were amongst a tin of badges, medals and other WW2 memorabilia, that her husband had inherited on the death of his father. 
War Graves, which is often my first port of call, could not help either. They had nothing on Private Hill. I then found myself looking on line at all the cemeteries in and around Melbourne and comparing them to the Victorian deaths records. Through the team at the Australian Surnames Group we finally found our man or at least the Leslie James Hill who best fitted our profile.
It was at this point that one of the Australian Surnames Group team located a family tree on Ancestry. While not an exact copy of our research data it came pretty close.
Now before someone asks why did we not go to Ancestry immediately, the answer was to us quite simple; we can’t accept ‘almost the same’. Dates and ages must align or should I say, should align. Accepting that Leslie died at 49 in 1975, it meant that he must have been born in 1926, not 1925 which his records show. Accordingly, Leslie was only 17 when he enlisted.
As it was, there were other discrepancies between Ancestry, Leslie’s service file and what we had been able to deduce, including that Leslie fiddled his age to enlist. We also discovered that he married but his son died in infancy.
So now our next step, was to look for Leslie’s siblings. While this approach did at times have us going around in circles, it brought us ,after some time to Leslie’s niece, Fay, his sister Dorothy’s daughter.
It was where Part 1 of this story came to an end. Last night I found myself sitting at my computer working on Part 2, writing a letter on Fay’s behalf to Honours and Awards enquiring as to what medals Leslie had been eligible for and also even more importantly what he had been issued.
If it should it appear that Leslie was eligible for more medals watch this space for an update.
PS. Yes I know the ribbon is wrong, this is how I received the medals, but Fay could not have cared less. And me, well I was glad to pass them on.

The returned medal tally is now 1614.

21 January 2015

Edward Power

This is a really great story from Bill.
When I returned the Victory Medal awarded to 3424 PTE D M J McNeil to his granddaughter, Robin, she mentioned that her family also had a medal that they had been trying to return to the recipient’s family. Would I like to take it and see if I could do just that?
So from one successful conclusion a new search started.
The search for the family of 12381 PTE Edward Aloysius Power owes much of it conclusion to the team at the Australian Surname Group.
Following his brother Cyril into the Army, Edward served in both France and Belgium. However in the case of both brothers document sources dried up. While he came from a large family, none of Edward’s brothers married, well we (the team) could find no record of any of them ever marrying. But his sisters did. This in itself was a further frustration, it meant that in one generation all of Edwards possible next of kin had a different surname.
Edward didn’t help matters either deciding at some time in his life he didn’t like the name Aloysius so he changed it to Arthur. Effectively he disappeared for several years as he exited from a series of the Electoral Roll as Aloysius only to re-appear several years later as Arthur.
It was not until ‘Jenn’ picked up on an obscure link that we were able to find the rest of the family. However, with none of the males marrying, it was left for us to look to Edward’s sisters.
One of whom, Tertia, trained with Dame Nellie Melba, embarking on a brilliant worldwide career as a soprano. In fact there is a recording of her on YouTube.
It was through a great piecing together of a long list of somewhat disjointed facts that we were able to finally locate a living descendant. That is not where our story ends. It was to have a second ending, next it was time for the family to discuss the matter and decide who amongst the surviving family should accept it on behalf of the family and hold it in trust for the next generation. It was Joan, daughter of Edward's eldest sister Patricia, who the family selected.. Nearing 90, Joan still has a crystal clear memory of Edward, his brothers, and the whole Power family for that matter.

The returned medal tally is now 1612.

18 January 2015

Bill's Christmas Tale part two

A Christmas Tale – A Work in Progress Part two.
One of the first things I always do when I receive medals is check that they are all to the same person.
In the case of ‘MacNamara’, there was a small problem.
For as Ian the husband of his granddaughter said: “We know it’s Patricia’s grandfather, but the spelling on one medal is wrong, and so is his Service number. Yeh, they have been in one of her father’s old tins for some time, and we have always planned to get them mounted, but”.
And so part two began. It began with a considerable period spent scanning the Australian National Archives.
There are 54 files linked by the name MacNamara  but there are 400 files linked by the name McNamara, but none of them shared his regimental number 1426.
Only 1 file had the correct regimental number (1426) and the same given initials.
So what of the medal with the wrong no (1428). It took some gentle rubbing with a cotton bud and lens cleaning fluid, to remove over 70 years of grime/grease and verdigris, until the Regimental number transformed from 1428 to 1426.
So far so good, I now only had one regimental number to consider but why was the ‘a’ dropped and how come two units were shown?
Well it was back to ‘Mac’s’ file. If the medals were to be mounted together, then the granddaughter had to be sure that the missing ‘a’ had been an human error, she could accept no less.
It was the third and a much slower read through that brought the missing ‘a’ to light.
When Mac had been repatriated to Australia in June 1916, it had been Army policy to type out the service file in its entirety, this was done to ensure that all the facts were present in the members file, and that regardless of the wear and tear a service file had been exposed to, none of the actual history had been lost.
For whoever typed the file dropped the ‘a’ from MacNamara, and from then on ‘Mac’ was ‘Mc’ to the Army. However, complicating the fact was that Mac’s medals were all not all issued at the same time. The issue dates were:
1914-1915 Star 17/6/1920
British War Medal (BWM) 4/5/1921, and the
Victory Medal (VM) 23/5/1922.
In fact his medals cards for the BWM and VM showed Mac’s name as McNamara. Only the Star had initially been transcribed correctly. The VM medal card had later it appears been altered from McNamara to MacNamara. The BWM was overlooked. It was the odd one out.
Perhaps to some the time an effort spent in researching the differences was unnecessary. But I leave you with a thought.
If I had not taken the time to follow through, there is I believe the possibility that there is someone out there who had no medals, and whose grandfather had been a McNamara.
What do Mac’s medal look like now?

15 January 2015

Jep Kenny

New Year's Day saw an email arrive in my in box which is similar to so many that we receive. It explained that amongst the family WWI medals was a medal named to a person who was not a family member. How the medal came to be with the family collection was a mystery.
In this case the medal is the 1914-15 Star awarded to 3041 Jep Francis Kenny. Jep was originally allocated to the 6th Battalion, AIF but transferred, firstly, to 58th Battalion then 57th Battalion during February and March 1916. Jep died of wounds on 17 July 1916 aged 19, one year and one day after he enlisted. He is buried in the Anzac Cemetery, Sailly-Sur-La-Lys.
Jep's mothers maiden name was Jesperson which I suspect inspired his name. Quite a bit of information was available about the Kenny family on several genealogy website. However, the usable information ceased around WWII. I then had to construct a family tree for Jep's sister Barbara Caroline Catherine Kenny who married George Wiffin Simmonds. The electoral rolls provided the names of Barbara's children which led me to contacting the wife of Jep's nephew.
Thank you to Belinda and her mother who sent me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 1611.

14 January 2015

Post update - Jack Flynn

The post about Jack Flynn has been updated with the addition of a photo of Jack in uniform. 

Walter Lyon story update

This article about the return of the WWI medals awarded to Walter Lyons was recently published in the Hawkesbury District Independent. It is great to see Bill get recognised for his effort.

08 January 2015

John 'Jack' Flynn

I received the 1939-45 Star awarded to NX69940 John 'Jack' Henry Raymond Flynn earlier this morning. His distinctive name quickly led me to his service record and his wife's name. However, this is when it got tricky. I found a family tree on Ancestry.com.au which gave me is daughters name but not her surname after she married. But the tree did give me the name of Jack's grand son - Steven John Wxxxxxx. After using several combinations of name searches I got another hit on a private (not accessible) Ancestry family tree. The owner of the tree has the username of StevenW so I made an assumption this was who I was looking for.
Within a couple of minutes of sending of a message I had a response which included a contact phone number. I've now spoken Jack's grand son and will send him the medal shortly. This search took about 30 minutes (sorry Bill).
In Jack's service record there is a series of letters advising the Department of Defence that he had lost his medals and the process to official replacements medals. The medal I'll be returning is one of the original medals that was lost in the 1960s. The second picture is of Jack from his service record.
Thank you to Dave G for your part in this return. The returned medal tally is now 1610.

Post update 14 Jan 15
I've been kindly provided a picture of Jack to add to this story. Thank you to Steven for his kind permission to use this photo.

05 January 2015

Lawrence Finch

Compared to many other countries Australia is very lucky to have extensive records available for public access. All WWI AIF service records are free online and many WWII records have been digitised. Similarly, there are newspaper archives available through Trove. I used all of these in the search for the family of Lawrence Arthur Finch.
Laurie first enlisted as a solider (NX136570) before transferring to the RAAF (433431) and completing pilot training. Laurie's brother Jack also served in the RAAF. The free online resources gave me enough information to narrow the Finch family down so that my search on the not so free Ancestry.com.au was relatively simple. This search gave me the names of Laurie's parents, his wife and his son. Back to the free Ryerson Index confirmed the dates of death of Laurie, his wife and their son Michael. I was back at square one.
Through Trove's newspaper archives I did find Laurie's father's death notice which gave me Laurie's sister's married name. This name is quite unique so it was back to Ancestry and a search of the electoral rolls gave me her son's name. This is Laurie's nephew. My next free resource was the White Pages and I quickly found the nephew's phone number.
This medal was one of those that came to me in the NSW box.
The returned medal tally is 1609.